By Tim Monk and Shaun Blundell
As Thursday Night Football kicks off, most teams are now a quarter way through the season. Don’t forget to check out Thursday’s podcast for more of a preview on the weekend’s games including the London game between the Bears and the Raiders. Look out for a piece by Lawrence on that game specifically in a day or too.
Back to the rest of the week 5 games….
Dak and Pack
This is usually a highlight on any gameweek in the season. Recent matchups have been thrillers including the famous #dezcaughtit game but the game on Sunday Night is actually quite an important one.
Both teams coming off a loss to NFC rivals, both teams have been asked a question for the first time and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. Teams in their division have made up the ground in what initially looked like 2 teams that should comfortably see January football.
Dallas stymied by New Orleans and Green Bay outgunned at home vs Philadelphia, the loser of this game at AT&T stadium could end up having to do a bit of soul searching.
A doubtful Davante Adams for Green Bay could prove pivotal, though Rodgers usually gets production from whoever is on the field.
Defences should both enjoy decent nights but the better QB and playcalling combination should see this one through.
A win for either team and their troubles should dissipate for the short term, but the team taking the loss will be starting to feel the pressure.
West about to get wild
Hawks vs Rams go into their NFC West tussle on TNF with quite a lot at stake.
Not only is it a fiercely contested matchup, where a win will help with the tiebreaker that may come in to paly come week 17, but both teams will be trying to catch the currently unbeaten 49ers! The Seahawks get homefield advantage and face a Rams team that were just embarrassed at home by the Bucs and the Seahawks have been anything but convincing thus far despite being 3-1.
It’s fair to say the Rams have not reached their peaks of 2018 and the cursed Super Bowl hangover seems to be there. Todd Gurley isn’t Todd Gurley, jared Goff is quite frankly not a great QB which is epitomised by an awful 500 yards passing performance.
Chris Carson has had a case of the fumbles early on, though managed to avoid that bug last week against the Cardinals and the Seahawks defence as a unit aren’t what they were a few years ago in prime legion of boom time.
How will the Rams respond? Can the Seahawks finally put in an assured performance? Plenty of storylines heading in to TNF and if last year’s games are anything to go by, should be a pretty good game for those staying up to watch it.
Daniel Jones first real test
Daniel Jones to date has faced the defences of Tampa Bay and Washington. Pretty vanilla stuff.
Next up on the docket is a Vikings defence that have only given up a 5th best average of 15.75 pts so far this season and a 6th best 312.75 yards per game.
Jones through his 2 games as starter is 46/67, 561 yards 5 Total TDs and 2INT. Is that good vs the defences he has faced? Probably not, but he is a rookie and you can’t expect him to be putting in Tom Brady type performances (he’s already at Eli Manning level).
The same can be said for the Giants’ offensive line too. It will certainly be interesting to see how Jones copes with the opposition this early on in his career, especially with no Saquon Barkley for a while.
AFC South is up for grabs
For the first time since the AFL/NFL merger (and this blows my mind), all teams within a division are all 2-2 through 4 games.
That means it’s all to play for and looking at week 5, the Jags face Carolina, the Colts travel to Arrowhead, the Texans are at home to the Falcons and the Titans travel to Buffalo.
As the records suggest, there’s a lot of inconsistency in the division and it’s very hard to predict who will come away with the division title and likely be 1 and done in the playoffs.
Houston are the front runners purely as they have the best QB in the division (though he is getting VERY beaten up), despite Minshew Mania taking the league by storm. Titans haven’t won the division in over a decade and are strong on defence but aren’t putting up a great deal of points and then the Colts are very hot and cold on both sides of the ball.
It will only take a couple of wins to be strung together by one of these teams to steal a march on the rest. Who can achieve that though is anyone’s guess. Houston are the bookies’ favourites at around 13/8, but in a 4 horse race and with all the other teams around 3/1, it’s a wide open affair.
Dan Quinn’s hotseat starting to burn
Matty Ice and the Falcons travel to Houston this week currently sitting at 1-3 and you cant but help thinking, what a waste of talent on this team. Yes, they’ve gone to the Super Bowl (anyone remember that game for any reason?) but this team should have achieved far more than they have.
Head Coach Dan Quinn has had his ups and downs with this team but even at this early stage, they seem up against it to make the post season. Consequently, you have to wonder whether Quinn will be back. After hosting the Super Bowl last year in their back yard, to not make the playoffs was actually quite embarrassing for the owners.
The offensive line is shoddy despite having 2 first rounders plugged in to the right hand side and Matt Ryan’s attempts through 4 games are as high as they ever have in his career. For god’s sake, Austin Hooper is fantasy relevant!
They’ve had a hard schedule thus far against the Vikings, Eagles, Colts and Titans but I’ve got more bad news, they’ve not even had a divisional game yet and this is a division that will be hard to get wins from.
Talking of divisional games, how in the hell can a team not play a divisional game until after their bye in week 9?
Regardless, you can forgive Falcons fans for thinking that it’s going to take a huge overhaul here to change their fortunes as it just seems to be the same story every year and unfortunately, their Super Bowl run seems to be the anomaly.
And Then There Were 3
“Any given Sunday” that is definitely the mantra when it comes to a teams chances in the NFL. As we pass the quarter mark of the season only 3 teams remain not knowing what a defeat tastes like.
Many would not have been surprised to see the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs as part of this exclusive club but hands up those who had the San Francisco 49ers as the only NFC undefeated team at this stage?
Of course a bye in week 4 (how ridiculous) helps anyone’s quest to stay undefeated but all 3 open up as favourites for their week 5 matchups, so will anyone be on the wrong end of a result this week?
Can The Ravens Rebound?
After 2 weeks of dominant performances against inferior opposition followed by 2 weeks of poor displays the Baltimore Ravens hit the road to face old foe the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This has been a matchup down the years with huge implications on the destination of not only the AFC North crown but also playoff and tie breaker implications. The Steelers are trending upwards after notching their first W of the season on Monday Night Football as Mason Rudloph and co get to battle the wobbling Ravens defence.
Having given up over 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time franchise history it’s that side of the ball that the Ravens need a kick start from, regardless of how good you think Lamar Jackson is or isn’t at quarterback.
A quarterback currently wearing a walking boot, a quarterback who hasn’t played or practiced since training camp or a rookie quarterback who threw 2 picks on debut last week.
That is the dilemma facing Jay Gruden as he prepares to select his starting quarterback for week 5. Not exactly an ideal situation so fingers crossed that the schedule falls kindly……ooops.
Whomever gets the nod will have the leagues leading defence in the New England Patriots to combat. Having given up their first touchdown of the year last week it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see them pitch another shutout as they travel to the nation’s capital, a popular daily fantasy play again this week for sure.
Defences Matter Too
I make no apology for admitting I love a bruising defensive battle in today’s day and age of high scoring, heavy offence NFL.
A hard hitting, turnover hungry, physically intimidating defence sets the attitude of a team and the Buffalo Bills @ the Tennessee Titans pits 2 such units against each other. Buffalo made even Tom Brady look ordinary last week so expect Marcus Mariota to struggle to move the Titans. Buffalo is likely without Josh Allen and this represents a really tough start for Matt Barkley if that is indeed what ends up happening.
It’s a game not likely to spend much time on Scott Hanson’s read zone coverage Sunday, but expect a tight and tense battle that will likely be a 1 possession differential as the clocks hit zeroes.
A certain contributor to this regular article dubbed them the San Francisco “Phoney”Niners, this week is a true test for what they really are.
The Browns finally put it all together last weekend and head over to the West coast to close out the weeks action on Monday Night Football. This is a great barometer for both of these sides with the undefeated niners favoured at home.
It’s a bet that I will gladly take though as last week felt more of a statement than it did just a win for the men in orange and brown. The production as mentioned should continue to come from Nick Chubb on the ground but the attitude undoubtedly starts with the polarizing quarterback Baker Mayfield.
To use his own words, he “plays better with a swagger” and he is certainly portraying that as he looks to lead the Browns over 500 for the first time since Brian Hoyer was playing quarterback.